31 de março de 2011

Michelangelo Merisi Caravaggio - Narcissus

Narcissus - 1597-99
Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica - Rome
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio,(1571-1610) enduring fame stems partly from his extraordinary life and partly from his even more remarkable art. In life he earned a reputation as swaggering brawler, became a fugitive after killing a man over a bet,  and died prematurely at the age of thirty-eight. Yet Caravaggio also produced paintings of breathtaking originality, becoming the most influential Italian artist of his generation. Narcissus belongs to the early part of Caravaggio’s career, and comparatively little is known about his work at this stage – indeed, some critics have even questioned whether this painting is actually by Caravaggio. Nevertheless, some of the artist’s trademarks are already apparent. From the outset, he favored the dramatic device of placing large, boldly lit figures in dark settings, like actors caught in spotlight. He also had a tendency to use sensual young men as his models. More importantly, the composition is simple but eye-catching. Narcissus and his reflection form a loop, revolving around the boy’s illuminated knee. A similar effect can be found in Caravaggio’s Conversion on the Way to Damascus (1601), which focuses on a horse’s hoof. The subject is drawn from Ovid. Narcissus was a handsome youth who fell in love with his own reflection and gradually pined away. At his death, he was transformed into the flower that now bears his name. Here, the doleful expression of the reflection already hints at this fate. Mythological subjects are quite rare in Caravaggio’s work, and the circumstances of any commission are unknown.
Source: Ian Zaczek

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